France Sri Lanka Cultural Exchanges - Suriyakantha

  The bilingual site devoted to the cultural life in Sri Lanka and in France                                                        
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Le site bilingue consacré à la vie culturelle au Sri Lanka et en France

H O M E   /   I N  B R I E F



Sri Lanka / France












Fascination of the body

Paul Cézanne

In the Light of Gauguin


Jean de La Fontaine

Malraux / Segalen


Pigeon houses in Quercy






Death Penalty

Mental Health



Miniatures of Kangra, India


Da Vinci Code movie banned in Sri Lanka
Responding to appeal by Catholic Bishops, President Mahinda Rajapakse has ordered the Public Performances Board (PPB) to ban the screening of the movie "The Da Vinci Code" in local cinemas and on local television channels.
(Daily News, Colombo, 25th May 2006)

"Da Vinci Code" opens in Asia despite ban attempts  

Handagama's film 'Aksharaya' in crisis

"Ban on Handagama's film
Lethal blow to freedom of expression"

"The news report that the Ministry of Cultural Affairs has threatened to ban Asoka Handagama's latest film "A Letter of Fire" (Aksharaya) does not augur well for the development of the national cinema (...)
Asoka Handagama's film is a serious work, powerful, disturbing (to the fainthearted), a searing attack on all our 'Sacred Cows'. Critics might find it difficult to read all the sub-texts which are sardonic assaults on marital, sociological, cultural institutions in the narrative (...)
Every national cinema needs directors who will push the frontiers of the medium both in terms of structure as well as the introduction of controversial, even taboo subjects to prevent our cinema from being stultified and moribund" (...)

Lester James Peries

  • Lester James Peries, Daily News, Colombo, 29th April 2006  
  • Hemantha Warnakulasuriya, Daily News, Colombo, 10th May 2006  
  • Prof. Somarathna Balasuriya, Weekend Standard, Colombo, 13th May 2006  
  • Cinema still holds appeal : Tissa Abeysekara, Daily News, Colombo, 20th May 2006  
  • Ashoka Handagama  

    January 2006 : National release in France of
    Vimukthi Jayasundara's "Forsaken Land"

    To stop for a while, and to look at the human condition, the nature and the world. If we have to compare cinema to painting, this film should be abstract art : the artist proposes something that he is alone to understand, everyone expressing his own ideas and his own responses. But for that, it is necessary to contemplate, to feel about it.

    La terre abandonnée (The Forsaken Land), philosophical film with existential questions, vision of the present world or simple and beautiful work of art to be looked at ...
    Christophe Leyton, "Excessif"

    Director : Vimukthi Jayasundara
    Starring : Mahendra Perera, Kaushalya Fernando, Nilupili Jayawardena

    Niether war, nor peace, just a whiff of wind
    God is absent but the sun still rises
    Over a lonely home between two trees - in a forsaken land
    A hand thrust out the water, begs to help
    A legendary woman seeks love
    A soldier kills an unknown person, and is tortured by guilt

    After the Festival of Cannes, a new award for "Sulanga Enu Pinisa" at the 3rd World Film Festival of Bangkok

    "Sulanga Enu Pinisa : A superb cinematic debut...
    ... a landmark
    in the history of Sri Lankan cinema"
    E.M.G. Edirisinghe (Daily News, Artscope, 26th October 2005)

    Depression - economic, spiritual, sexual - is the theme of this film from Sri Lankan filmmaker Vimukthi Jayasundara.
    Lethargically paced, "Forsaken Land" proceeds almost as if in real time: treks to the outhouse, daily baths, numerous walks to the dirt road. Cinematically, we're stranded in a Third World "Zabriskie Point." Instead of distilling the plight of the main characters, the filmmaker merely records it.

    Sarath Dharmasiri : Gini Kirilli (The Fire Bird)

    Sarath's maiden creation focuses on a rather controversial but appealing and timely issue.
    "I have basically focused my film on the failure of the law enforcement authorities to ensure social justice and render their cherished services to society," Sarath says. It is just like saviour turns assassin, says Sarath explaining the theme of his film which is woven around a woman who is sexually abused. This woman who is first raped by a villager is later subjected to exploitation in many stages in society while her case is pending in Courts.

    "In this country, it sometimes takes years to give a verdict on a rape case and by that time, the victim had been raped and exposed to social injustice at many stages. Some attribute this to shortcomings in our law enforcement system," Sarath says.
    "We have to raise a voice for the voiceless people and that's the main objective of my film creation."

    Prasanna Vithanage's latest film "Ira Madiyama".

    Ira Madiyama (August Sun) is set in Sri Lanka during the mid-1990s and tells three simultaneous stories against the backdrop of the country's savage civil war.

    The first concerns the attempts of Arafat, an 11 year-old Muslim boy from Talaimannar, to keep his friend and companion, a dog, while his family is forced out of their home by rebel soldiers. The second story revolves around the search by a young woman for her husband, a Sri Lankan Air Force pilot who is apparently 'missing in action'. In the third, a young soldier walks into a brothel in the Sacred City of Anuradhapura, only to find his sister is one of the sex workers.

    See below : "Pura Handa Kaluwara"
    Further readings: : In the Heat of the Day


    Vimukthi Jayasundera : The Abandoned Land

    Vimukthi Jayasundera, at 26, the youngest Sri Lankan film maker to have made it to the premier international film festival at Cannes, with his short film "Vide pour l'amour" (Empty for Love), is in Sri Lanka to launch on the production of his maiden full-length feature film. Calling it The Abandoned Land, Vimukthi describes it as "the story of a village in Sri Lanka where evil nature and insanity invades and occupies human souls and bodies."
    A believer in the mood of the images he collates, rather than pre-occupation with their mere motion, he tries to capture "the strange mood which occupies the no-war-no-peace quagmire where public life has been the casualty for too long, and an air of evilness and sickness not only sneaks into people's minds and souls but also haunts their physical selves."

    Do you think Sri Lankan cinema has broken barriers and moved to new perspectives?
    I think Asoka Handagama, Prasanna Withanage and several others have done quite interesting work. But Sri Lankan cinema does not have a dependent art form. One needs literature, painting, arts and a huge rich background to create films. Here, we have no special space belonging to arts or cinema or even a cinema library. There is no pivotal place in which the local cinematic artistes could meet. In the last few weeks, I have had difficulty in contacting them as they do not talk to each other or discuss their work together, as in Europe. (Excerpts of an interview in Sunday Observer, 14/09/2003).

    Recently in France, Lester James Peries : "Mansion by the Lake"
    based on a novel by Chekhov


    Remarkably simple and rigourous
    Le Monde

    A fascinating twilight

    A work which bewitches you by the fragrance it diffuses
    Monsieur Cinéma

    Lyric and nostalgic
    Les Inrockuptibles

    Fatalism and lucidity

    There could have been a better translation in French for Mansion by the Lake by the great Sri Lankan Director Lester James Peries (84) : "The field", given that the film doesn't deal exclusively with the economical and symbolical possession of a field, but also with the attachment of a family to a static place which has gone through the centuries. The film itself lies within the scope of kind of cinema that one could date twenty or thirty years back, but, at the same time, knowing that the film is ahead of its time. The cars (that red Mercedes, symbol of the newly rich), the clothes, setting and the costumes are taken from a time that one cannot define, which is simply the post period, that of the second half of the 20th century, which comes after the grandiose dwellings of the landlords and the remains of the feudal power. Mansion by the Lake contains the note of melancholy of Satyajith Ray's ... and Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, whose the film is an adaptation: when the time of the noble is passed comes the power of the newly rich. Here, a family, reduced to a widow, an adopted child and an adolescent daughter, Aruni, is in the verge of selling their dwelling to pay the debts. It is the son of their manager (and the great child of their farmer) who is going to buy the house.

    ... Last year, the strange This is My Moon, by Asoka Handagama, had already surprised and shocked us by its excessive sound effects. But this time, the echo reminds of The Ghost Story: each foot step echoes in the house as if it is already empty, as a bang at the door by destiny. There are no sounds, only their resonance, already become a has-been, yet keep on remaining. When the family leaves the empty house, Peries films the descending the staircase with the steps reverberating in the emptiness, like hammering on a coffin...

    Stéphane Delorme
    Cahiers du Cinéma, July-August 2003

    We owe this transposition of Chekhov (The Cherry Orchard) in Sri Lanka of 1980s to a veteran of the Sinhala cinema, not well known here. The mixing up is done with a great attention, redeemed by the immemorial style of the movie, dated in 2002, but seems to be unearthed from a collection, forgotten for decades...

    ... The abundant and explicit dialogue is not the only key to the story. The use of space and architecture, discretely gothic, stimulates more eloquent and anxious images. The red Mercedes of Lucas passing through the land reminds of a progressing virus. The house, its monumental staircase, doors and gardens with birdcages.... And its inhabitants resemble rare and exterminating birds, yet with absurdly colourful feathers: Sujatha puts on almost as many clothes as the number of the sequences....

    ... Mansion by the Lake evokes the kind of fascination that one would reserve perhaps while watching an old, luxurious vessel, submerging majestically in a static ocean.

    Louis Guichard
    Télérama n° 2798 - 30th August 2003

    Lester James Peries

    In a moment where everyone is trying to spot the new wave, which is going to revolutionise the world of cinema, it is interesting to have a look at the latest film by Lester James Peries, 84, veteran of the Asian classicism. Mansion by the Lake, the Sri Lankan film, is the antithesis of what the young filmmakers are experimenting today in Argentina, Thailand or even in Sri Lanka where a young rebellion is emerging whose This is My Moon shocked the public by its formal daring.

    Peries has not changed his directing since the long gazes of the protagonist of Rekhawa (1956)... He has not either modified his preoccupations: it is once again the story of a dwelling threatened by the debts and hence by the newly rich and the profiteers; about the decadence of the civilised annihilated by the modern world. The cineaste has not changed, and that is why he fascinates...

    His script is simple. Music is almost dowdy (we find ourselves in a Music Room in the 50s that Satyajith Ray did not dare film anymore). Yet it works: at the end, when the young heroine, Aruni, squeezed by sadness, promises her mother that she will work hard to pull trough the audience cries... Lester is a great director!

    Antoine de Baecque
    Libération, 27. O8. 2003


    Sri Lanka : the great revelation

    Sri Lanka, the land ignored by the world cinema, whose distant works of Lester James Pieris, the director of an invaluable master-piece, Village in the Jungle (1964) we had known till now, has suddenly waken up in 2002, thanks to three directors and three films. First comes that of Lester James Pieris, 82, cinematographically silent since Village in the Jungle, author of a sumptuous film, The Mansion by the Lake, adapted from Tchekhov. With a tone quite similar to that of Ray's late works, he weaves an intimate dramatic art very subtly by taking into account the least sounds of the political landscape of his country. Mysteriously refused at Cannes, then ignored by the festivals, the film will perhaps be presented once again in Cannes 2003.

    The second cineaste is Ashoka Handagama whose This is My Moon was recently released in French theatres, author of, this time, a surprising Flying with One Wing, shot with a light budget specially on the sound side - Handagama is a bank employee who shoots his film during the week-ends or vacations.

    Refused by many festivals except Saint Sebastian, then screened at Trois Continent at Nantes, the film slices with the aesthetical and narrative standards of the world cinema the good taste that jams the festivals.

    Flying with One Wing amplifies the sexual tensions present in This is My Moon. Its subject matter is the male chauvinism and the sexism, that leaves the woman with an alternative in the job market: the enticing secretary vowed to the prostitution hardly disguised. Hence, the woman disguises as a man, like the heroine of the film who works as garage mechanic among other men, lives with a woman without disclosing his/her real nature. Commences then a complicated politico-sexual fable coupled with a joyful barbarity, sometimes cruel, deserving the best of Fassbinder in which everything is possible, from the sexuality's organic nature (and its possible misunderstanding) to the painful social organisation of a world based on the sexual differences. Caustic and really tonic.

    The third film is Pickpocket (it has been screened in Locarno and in Belfort), the second feature by Linton Semage, a dancer and an actor who plays also the role of a pickpocket. One day he comes across a purse carrying a photograph of his wife. Persuaded that the owner of the purse is his wife's lover, he leads an enquiry, but the jealous paranoiac that he becomes makes mistakes on the signs whose erroneous reading leads to make him lost.

    A beautiful film (what a long journey I had to make not to reach to you!) traversed by a pleasant atmosphere (light, the beautiful sound-track, warmth of the shots)...

    Charles Tesson
    Cahiers du Cinéma


    "Flying with one wing" by Asoka Handagama

    Flying with one wing (Tani Tatuwen Piyabanna)
    by Ashoka Handagama wins the Asian Film Award at the "Tokyo International Film Festival 2002".
    The film was equally screened at the "London International Festi- val" (Nov. 4-15) and "Nantes Inter- national Film Festival" in France (Nov. 15 - 29).

    "It looks as though that the medial fraternity, artistic community and the so-called guardians of culture are getting organised to question me even more once the film has been shown (...)
    I am ready to face your attack so that you can sharpen your weapons. Actually what I really want is for the film to be discussed."

    Ashoka Handagama
    (Excerpts of an interview in Sunday Island, 29/12/2002).


      "This is My Moon" by Ashoka Handagama on French Screen!
      The national release : October 30, 2002

      "Me Mage Sandai" by Ashoka Handagama

      "Me Mage Sandai" (This Is My Moon), the internationally acclaimed film by Ashoka Handagama, unfolds a story of an army deserter and a Tamil girl in a border village of war-torn Nothern Sri Lanka. This film has already won several international awards including :

    • Jeonju Film Festival, Korea - Best Film
    • Singapore Film Festival - Young Cinema Award for the
         best film 2001
    • Houston Festival - Bronze Remi Award for Best Feature. and participated in many other international film festivals.

      The film has being screened in the Tokyo International Film Festival and presented at the Bangkok Film Festival held in November 2002.

      The main casts include Saumya Liyanage, Dilhani Ashokamala, Hemasiri Liyanage and W. Jayasiri.

      "...has no plot points. No suspense. Standing against the rules of Syd Field, the guru of scriptwriting, this anti-Hollywood-style film will I hope be powerful enough to keep the audience tagged to the film right through out.

      No dissolves. No fade-ins. No fade-outs. This film applies only the most primitive technique of shot joining, the CUT.

      No panning. No zooming. No tracking. This film uses the most fundamental way of framing, the STATIC frame.

      No magic. No effects. It employs the simplest of techniques, a rythmic flow of static images to maintain the tempo."


    • Synopsis

      One night, in Sri Lanka's northern war zone, a battle rages between the government forces and Tamil separatists fighters. A Sinhalese army soldier cowers alone in his bunker, indifferent to the bombardment and slaughter, taking place around him. Suddenly a trapped and frightened Tamil woman falls into the bunker. She submits to his rape in order to his save her life. After two nights alone with the woman the soldier throws away his gun and deserts the army. He heads back to his village, but she follows him.

      When he returns, he finds his village stricken with drought and despair. The people eke out a living by scratching at the scorched earth, which yields unwillingly to plough and spade. There are no jobs and little money. Their only hope is that their sons, brothers and husbands will join the army. Then they can live off the soldiers' wages, or reap the windfall of the compensation payment of their men are killed in action.

      The deserter walks into this maelstrom of discontents, unwillingly trailing another woman and thus upsetting the order of things. As a deserter he gets no wages. If he returns in a coffin his family would have got the compensation payment. If he returns alone the woman he left behind when he joined the army could have now married him and laid claim to her share of his future, dead or alive.

      And there's this Tamil woman. Her presence in this border village, heightens the sense of uncertainty and absurdity in the community, brought about by the war and its unrelenting demands on the country's poorest people. Jealousy, betrayals, hatred and lust now stalked the village. And in her belly she carries the deserter's child.

      If there is salvation and sanity in the midst of the scorching "sun fire" of the war, then it perhaps to be found under the soothing and life-enhancing "moon light" of the latent sisterhood of woman and the innocence of children.

      Courtesy of



      Somaratne Dissanayake's "Little Angel" wins
      top award at Iranian International Film Festival

        Sri Lankan film "Punchi Suranganavi", or Little Angel, about the friendship between two children, one from the majority Sinhala community and the other from the minority Tamil community, has won top honours at the Iranian International Film Festival.

        "Punchi Suranganavi", by internationally acclaimed director Somaratne Dissanayake, won the Golden Butterfly Award for its universal human interest.

      The 10-year-old Nityabani Kandasamy, who portrayed the character of the Tamil girl, won a special award for her "artistic finesse" at the festival held on October 15, 2002.

      Read also :

    • "SAROJA", Somaratne Dissanayake's pacific film, is a big hit. - September 2000 (SL)


      December 2001

      Aswesuma wins another international award.

      Internationallly acclaimed film "Aswenna" (The Compensation), directed by Bennett Ratnayake, won the critics award at the Mumbai International Film Festival, organized by the Federation of International Cinema Critics Association, recently.

      The maiden directorial attempt of Bennet Ratnayake was adjudged first out of fourty films

        representing different countries. The Chinese film "Postman in the Mountain" and "The Warrior", the UK-Indian production, were placed second and third respectively.

        Earlier the same film won the Platinum Award, given for the maiden directorial effort of a filmmaker at the 34th Houston International Film Festival with which a Sri Lankan film director was honoured for the first time.

        "Aswesuma" depicts an old man's struggle to overcome his own guilt and his longing to correct some of the happenings for which he was responsible during his youth.

          Starring : Joe Abeywickrama, Jackson Anthoney, Ravindra               Randeniya, Sangeetha Weerrarathna
          Produced by : Samanmalee Hewamanne and                     Bennett Ratnayake
          Photography : Channa Deshapriya
          Edited by : Stanley De Alwis
          Music by : Harsha Makalanda
          Festivals : Kerala, Houston (Best First Feature), Moscow, Montreal World, Sao Paulo
          Running Time: 1:53
          Genre: Suspense


        December 16, 2001

        "Pura Handa Kaluwara"

        The internationally acclaimed film "Purahanda Kaluwara" (Death on a Full Moon Day) by Prasanna Vithanage sets a box office record by earning the hightest gate collection at the Regal Cinema, Colombo. The film had earned Rs. 2,420,284.00 within 61 daysbreaking the record set by "Saroja" which earned 2,414,000.00 after running for 126 days.

        August 2, 2001

        Supreme Court of Sri Lanka orders exhibition of
        "Pura Handa Kaluwara"
        the anti-war film of Prasanna Vithanage

        Sri Lanka's Supreme Court Thursday ordered the state to pay compensation to the makers of an award-winning anti-war film which was effectively banned by the government last year.
        The screening of the film "Death on a Full Moon Day" was blocked in July 2000 by a government minister because the country was on a "war-footing" following the escalation of attacks by Tamil Tiger separatists.
        Prasanna Vithanage said he had difficulties making the film, which was partly funded by Japan's NHK television network, due to the anti-war content.

        It tells the story of a family in a rural farming community
        who refuses to accept the death of their son
        after he enlists in the army.

        The Sinhalese-language film had already been shown abroad, winning international awards, including the best actor award at the Singapore Film Festival and the Grand Prix at the Amiens Festival in France. The film had already been screened in London, Melbourne, Paris, Tokyo, Frankfurt and New Delhi, while Sri Lankan audiences were prevented from seeing it. The Court ordered the release of the film for exhibition before September 15, 2001.

        The land is stricken by drought and ethnic conflict. The lake on the edge of the jungle is almost dry and few miles away the sons of the rural poor are dying on the front of a bitter civil war.

        As he collects water from what is left in the lake. Wannihami, the blind old man, knows the rain will come soon.

        A few days later, on the Buddhist holiday of the full moon. His soldier son's body is returned by the Army in a sealed coffin. The day the rains fall is the day Bandara is buried. Wannihami refuses to sign the papers which will entitle the family to the Government's compensation payment for his son's death in action.

        Sunanda, the younger daughter, silently accepts her father's decision and finds a job in a garment factory. But her boyfriend Somay, her elder, married sister Yamuna and the local Government officer pressure Wannihami to sign the papers. The customary alm-giving period of three months, After bandara's death is fast approaching and money has to be found to pay for the food. Somay earns a pittance as a brick maker. He too feels, like Bandara once did. That the only way to earn a decent living is to joine Army. The local Buddhist monk wants to construct a memorial in the name of the valiant son of the soil who gave his life for his country.

        Faced with this pressure from people blinded by desperate poverty, day to day hardships and empty glories of being nothing more than canon fodder, Wannihami retains the clarity of vision, which gives him the wisdom that reaches far beyond what the eye can see. He pick up the mammoty to dig up and open his son's sealed coffin by doing this he knows he will invalidate the compensation claim, but his greater purpose is to believe that the war cannot kill his son.

        Courtesy of the Official Web Site of Prasanna Vithanage

        Read also :

      • The Prasanna Vithanage controversy. - July 2000
      • Another Prasanna Vithanage film "Anantha Rathriya". - June 2001




      • The Amiens International Film Festival (France - 1999)'s Best film "Pura Handa Kaluwara" by Prasanna Vithanage is banned from screening in Sri Lanka. - July 2000 (SL)

      • "SAROJA", Somaratne Dissanayake's pacific film, is a big hit. - September 2000 (SL)

      • A French film festival in Kandy to screen 12 award winning films to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Cannes Film Festival. - May 2001 (SL)

      • A Prasanna Vithanage film "Anantha Rathriya" (Dark Night of the Soul) to reveal a story of guilty consciousness. - June 2001 (SL)

      • "Monsoon Wedding" by Mira Nair (India) wins the Golden Lion Award for Best Picture at the 58th Venice Film Festivalat - September 2001.